Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Azul


Game: Azul

Publisher: Plan B Games

Designer: Michael Kiesling

Year: 2017

Azul is the latest game from Plan B Games, who brought us the hotly anticipated Century Spice Road earlier this year. Century Spice Road was definitely a solid first game from this new offshoot of publisher ZMAN Games/F2Z and their follow up game has also been eagerly awaited due to the eyes on this new publisher, as well as the heavy hitting designer on the box - Michael Kiesling. Azul has a very eye-catching box, but does a good game await you inside?

In Azul you are a tile laying artist, creating your artwork on the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora. Each turn, tiles will be available in one of the factories in the centre of the table. You must take all of the tiles of one type from one factory and the rest of the tiles from that factory are placed in the centre of the table. You may alternatively take all of the tiles of one type from that central pile. You must then place the tiles into a single pattern row on the board - if you have too many tiles then you drop some on the floor. You continue to take turns taking tiles until all tiles have been taken from the factories and centre of the table.


In the next phase you move tiles onto your wall and score points. You push a tile from a finished pattern line into its respective spot on the same horizontal row of the wall. Points are scored for the number of tiles in the horizontal and vertical line into which you place the tile. So, if you are putting a tile in a completely isolated spot it would score just one point, but it's possible to score very high points for a good placement, adjacent to many tiles. If you haven't completed a pattern line then the tiles in it remain for you to continue on the next turn. The game continues in this way until one player triggers the end of the game by completing a horizontal line on their wall.

You should collect a respectable number of points during the game, so long as you don't lose too many points by taking too many tiles and dropping lots on the floor. However, you should also take care to score well in end game scoring, by completing rows of 5, columns of 5 or completing sets of 5 of the same coloured tile. Some of these strategies are incompatible because columns have unique tiles, with no matches, but getting 5 of a kind seems to be a good strategy to help you win the game.

A player board after tiles have been added to the wall and scored. Only tiles from a filled pattern line on the left are added to your wall on the right.
I went into Azul with some caution. Abstract strategy games are normally something that I avoid playing with Amy because her mind is just better suited to that style of game. However, Azul surprised me, because it has none of the movement aspects that I find so difficult in abstract games. That said, when we're playing with two players, Amy definitely has the upper hand, so I would personally rather play with 3 or 4 players. This adds slightly less predictability to the game as it's harder to predict the effect of your move through a chain of more players in order to line up your next turn. This suits me, because I often struggle to make these predictions, whilst Amy excels at them in a 2-player game.

The first thing that's apparent with Azul is the production quality. Its tiles are inspired by Moorish tiles found in Spain and Portugal and the bakelite-type material they are made of has been printed on both sides to give a lovely look to the tiled wall you are creating. It's definitely an abstract game, but there are still some thematic tie ins, especially with the mechanic of dropping tiles on the floor if you take more than you need.

Even the printed cloth bag is a lovely touch to this game with such nice components.
This game could have been made with much lower production quality for a much lower price point and perhaps that would make it a bit more accessible to a family audience. It's definitely a family weight game and I can see it working particularly well with parents or grandparents because of that quality and also the familiarity of an abstract game. My mum definitely gave it a seal of approval and it's similarity with the scoring mechanisms of Qwirkle, as well as some of the ideas of splitting piles, from games like Animals on Board, helped to make a game with a few moving parts, understandable for someone not very familiar with new board games.

Azul is a great mutliplayer abstract game, which I think has the opportunity to become a timeless classic board game. It's quality helps to give it the gravitas of an heirloom game and I hope that we'll be playing it with our family at gatherings over the next few years. Perhaps is isn't a game that will get our friends excited at game night, but its one that works for gaming in a different area of our lives and for that, the Yellow Meeple gives Azul a 7.5/10.

Azul was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is be available for an RRP of £39.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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